The Chronological Classics CD series is a collection of 965 compact discs that were compiled by Gilles Pétard in France from 1989. The original Classics music label never had a website, and it is hard to find reliable information about the history of the company and its series of recordings.
The label set out to assemble comprehensive collections of jazz recordings by hundreds of artists previously issued on 78 rpm records, as European copyright laws allowed (issued recordings are protected for 50 years) and issue them on compact disc. The series was issued with informative liner notes in colour-coordinated packaging.
The original series was published by subscription, with five issues being released each month. The series started with number 500 in December 1989. The initial release was Ella Fitzgerald 1935–1937.
The series contains the output of some of the greatest jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt and many lesser known artists, such as Beryl Booker, Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Mezz Mezzrow.
The Classics label regularly issued new collections until 2004, when its original distributor went bankrupt. The back catalogue was then acquired by Abeille Musique, which operated the label until July 2008. Five titles announced for an August 2008 release were never issued.
Many Classics titles are now prized collector's items and can only be found on the second-hand market, often at many times their original purchase price. Many of the titles have also been given a digital release under the label 'Complete Jazz Series' and are available on several streaming services.
For many years the cover of the CDs contained a typographical error. Instead of "Chronological", the typo at the top said "Chronogical". This mistake was corrected only in 2005, and a new logotype is used on the disc covers since number 1380 (Dizzy Gillespie 1953).
- Mike Zwerin "Classics Label Reissues 'Everything' by 200 Musicians: Jazz Greats, Before the LP", New York Times, 8 September 1999
- Kennedy, Gary (2002). Barry Kernfeld (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, vol. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 454. ISBN 1561592846.
- Chronological Classics at Abeille Musique
- Chronological Classics' Project